It was practically love at first sight…but first, how we got there.
As I mentioned in my last post, our visit to El Paso, TX was super-short due to weather and the lack of a car. It was the first time I have been in a Walmart and didn’t see any other white people! We were impressed by how art is everywhere in El Paso – even on the highways! Here are a few photos to give you a taste.
We originally had plans to visit White Sands National Monument for some sand-sledding, but Ross was nervous about getting enough music prep time in, so at the last minute we decided to settle into Las Cruces, NM for a couple of nights. We’re so glad we did!
Their library was surprisingly easy to fit a smaller RV into – at least on a Saturday – and I was overjoyed to see that we were within an easy walk of downtown! So after a few hours researching campgrounds and settling on an expensive KOA with amazing views of the mountains, we took a walk downtown.
After showing Ross the music store (one of three, it turns out) and the phenomenal used bookstore (they also carry sheet music, albums, comics, theater books etc.; It’s a mess but it’s a fabulous treasure hunt you could spend weeks exploring) I went off to visit some of the FREE museums downtown.
I started with the Nature & Science Museum. Although these aren’t usually my favorite museums (I prefer history and art typically), I hadn’t gotten a science lesson in recently and I thought I was overdue to learn about the region. Not only did I get to see amazing reptiles and amphibians with the fossils – I was also invited to enjoy a private behind the scenes tour of the museum! Here I saw LOTS of additional animals, learned how they are fed and cared for, including a Gila Monster, and I got to get up close and personal with the creatures I had previously seen behind glass. It was such a unique experience!
There are three other free museums. I skipped the Railroad Museum, which is a bit of a walk from where I was, but I loved the Art Museum (it’s small but had a phenomenal contemporary exhibit), and the Cultural Center offered exhibits on the region, including the use of quilting by Native Americans and one on military costumes, in a historic and beautiful building that I was glad I made time to visit.
When we weren’t enjoying downtown, we were learning about this awesome university town, barely 90 minutes from El Paso. It has farmer’s/crafter’s markets twice a week that are one of the best in the state. It has great programming for its residents. Dance classes were dirt cheap – $2-$4 – at many local studios. And it has two downtown theater companies, one more mainstream and one Black Box (A New Brain was on the docket there). And of course anything you couldn’t find in town would be found in El Paso.
We drove to the KOA, where we were greeted with the best views yet.
Monday morning, we packed up and headed to Mountain View Market Co-op, where I struggled to stick to my budget (but did) and was impressed by their offerings, especially the wide variety of local honey products. Ross meanwhile visited a comics shop with fun collector’s items. On our way here, I had been brainstorming where to get Ross a taco – he’d been craving one and we hadn’t had one in Texas or New Mexico – when we passed Bosa Donuts & Burritos. So after I ate my own lunch, we walked to get Ross a donut and a taco plate. The donuts are moist on the inside but crispy on the outside, and after a bite of a taco, Ross said, “Yup. I wanna live here.” This institution has been around for twenty years or so and I really hope I will be healthy enough to eat it when we return!
Everyone was incredibly friendly in Las Cruces. Everyone! We felt incredibly safe walking around and driving was easy to navigate, even for me. Hubbard’s, another music store, was so friendly that they invited Ross to their regular Monday night jam. And we read about an LGBTQ choir, a ukelele group, theaters and a film society in town, so it seemed like we’d fit right in.
Like Missoula, MT, Las Cruces is surrounded by mountains and completely gorgeous. We would prefer to learn Spanish, but unlike El Paso, we didn’t always feel like the minority here, so we felt we’d be fine without the second language.
Suffice to say, we will be looking up their university offerings. Arts seem to be pretty cheap here, which may mean it’s hard to make a living in them, but the cost of living also seems low based on what we were seeing. Lots of mixed use communities we would be happy in. The bus system is pretty extensive and cheap ($1/ride, with other discounts available for frequent users) and buses to other parts of the region and El Paso are also available – particularly good for airport options I imagine.
As we headed West, we passed the Continental Divide, enjoyed 180 degree mountain views in Arizona and New Mexico (it was like a sea of mountains) and passed a Geronimo Surrenders monument.
We will be back, New Mexico. As soon as we can!